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This week, Dean and Sam investigate mysterious deaths at a boys’ reform school Dean attended when he was 16. The case turns out to be more than your average salt and burn ghost problem.
The episode begins with a man getting impaled by farm equipment while looking for boys playing hide and seek past their bedtime.
At the bunker, Sam answers Dean’s phone. It’s a man named Sonny and he’s looking for D-Dog. Dean rushes to get the phone from Sam and promises the caller he’ll be there soon. Dean reveals to Sam that when he was 16, those months Dean was missing on a hunt, he actually was sent to a boys’ reform school for shoplifting. Dean had gambled their grocery money and lost it so he tried to steal food. Sonny was the man at the reform school who looked out for Dean.
When they arrive at the school, Dean explains that John left him there for those months and it wasn’t their dad’s fault. The woman who answers the door asks if Sam and Dean know Sonny from prison. This makes Sam judgmental about Sonny but Dean says, “What, and we’re such angels? Trust me, he’s more than made up for it.”
Flash back to when Dean first got brought to the reform school and the officer explains to Sonny he was caught stealing bread and peanut butter. Sonny asks if Dean has parents and the cop replies, “Well, his old man called. Once he found out what happened, he said, ‘Let him rot in jail.'” Sixteen year old Dean shakes his head to himself in frustration and disbelief. I love John Winchester, as I think most of us do, so this hurts. A lot.
The cop takes his sunglasses off and claims Dean sucker punched him. They argue and the cop leaves, with the handcuff key. Luckily, Sonny has a key. Dean’s got major bruises on his wrists and forearms. Sonny asks who did that, the deputy or his dad. Dean says a werewolf did it. Sonny doesn’t question it.
In present day, Sonny explains the man we saw in the beginning, Jack, was run over and that strange things have been happening, like lights turning on and off. He says he never believed in the whole supernatural thing but something’s not right there.
Sam checks out the house while Dean scopes out the barn. While Sam peels off tape name tags on one bed and discovers Dean’s old bed, he sees something in the other room. He pulls out a knife and finds the woman, Ruth. She explains she’s praying for the ghost to leave the farm.
In the barn, Dean finds the still bloody tractor and runs his EMF reader. He hears a boy laughing in one part of the barn and goes looking for him. Dean comes across Timmy, a boy with glasses who says he’s been fighting monsters with his superhero action figure, Bruce the Monster Smasher. Dean comments on how a cape might not be practical for hunting monsters and Timmy presses a button. Bruce says, “I clobber evil!” Dean, kindly: “I bet you do.”
Dean and Timmy shake hands, with Timmy just holding Dean’s fingers. Dean gets down to Timmy’s level and says, “If you’re gonna be a man, you gotta learn how to shake like one, okay? So, give me your best kung fu grip. Good. Now look me straight in the eye. Let me know you mean business. Shake as hard as you can. That’s it. You shake like that, you’ll be all right.” You can’t really beat sweet Dean moments like this.
Dean asks Timmy about Jack and the night of the accident. He says he heard Jack yelling and he and some other boys were in the barn when it got very cold. Timmy seems well behaved and not rebellious at all so you have to wonder what he did to get sent to the school. Something is off there.
Ruth explains to Sam she grew up in this town and Howard and Doreen Wasserlauf used to own the farm then. Howard got the false idea Doreen and Jack were sleeping together and tried to kill them both. He only managed to kill Doreen. Howard got life in prison and died a year ago, having always sworn to get Jack for what he thought Jack did.
Sam and Dean dig up Howard and salt and burn his body, figuring that’s all they need to do. I’m sure it would be, if this was season two. The boys leave town and shortly after, Ruth is suffocated by the plastic shower curtain while Ave Maria plays. Sonny is unable to break down the door and she dies.
Sam and Dean eat at Cus’s Place and Dean checks out a waitress like old times. We flash back to when Sonny brought Dean there. Dean’s been at the boys’ home for a month and Sonny has gotten the charges against Dean dropped. Dean’s doing well in school and even made the wrestling team but John is nowhere to be found. Sonny says he’s proud of him.
Sonny asks Dean about the occult type symbols carved into Dean’s bed and the salt in front of his door every night. Dean says it’s a family thing and a long story. Sonny, joking: “What are you, in the mob or something?” Dean: “More like something.”
Back in the present, Robin, the waitress who worked there when Dean was 16, still works there but doesn’t remember Dean. He’s a bit surprised by this and tries to brush it off in his this-doesn’t-bother-me Dean way, which only means it totally does. Dean tells her he remembers her mom giving the boys guitar lessons. Robin says her mom loved doing that and she kept it up for her after her mom died.
Robin avoids looking at Dean and when she gets called away, Dean tells Sam they have to leave, refusing to explain any of it to Sam.
Dean gets a call from Sonny and they rush back to the farm. He tells them he couldn’t get the door open to rescue Ruth. Sam asks if it was locked but Sonny says there are no locks at the farm. Sonny says Ruth always had rosary beads but now they’re missing.
Sam and Sonny go to check out the employee records while Dean goes to question the boys. He finds two bigger and older boys bullying Timmy and breaks it up. The older boys refuse to talk unless he’s a cop. Dean whips out his fake FBI badge and holds it a few inches in front of their faces. The boys say they weren’t around when Ruth got killed.
Dean asks if they’ve seen anything weird and one asks if he means other than Timmy. Dean: “Either of you touch him ever again, I’m going to go all Guantanamo on you.” They leave and Dean asks Timmy if he and Bruce are okay. Dean then advises that bullies are cowards and all Timmy has to do is stand up to them once and they’ll stop.
Sam asks Sonny about the school’s hall of fame wall. There’s a certificate from when Dean was the county’s 135 pound wrestling champion.
The older boys are mowing the lawn when Robin shows up with her guitar. She goes inside and the one boy finds Ruth’s rosary stuck on the blade of the mower. Like an idiot, he tries to pull it out. Timmy and Bruce watch from the window. The mower turns on, injuring the boy. Upstairs, we see a creepy hand on Timmy’s shoulder.
Sam shows Dean the file on Timmy, revealing he was found in an abandoned building, has no parents and ended up here. Sam thinks Timmy is possessed by a ghost and the boys separate to find him.
In the barn, Sam finds an attic door. On the walls of the attic are a kid’s drawings of a bad car accident and mommy written backwards.
Dean walks in on Robin playing guitar and flashes back to them talking when he was 16. She confesses she wants to be a photographer and take photos all around the world. Dean: “I want to be a rock star but… I also really like cars.” Robin kisses him and asks, “Have you kissed many girls?” He nervously says he has but he’s full of crap so she says they’ll “have to keep practicing.” It’s becoming clear why Dean would be surprised she acts like she doesn’t remember him.
Back in the present, Robin says she’s there for Timmy’s guitar lesson. Dean says she has to trust him and they have to get out of the house. Robin: “Trust you? And why would I do that again?” Dean: “You do remember me.” Robin: “How could I forget?”
We flash back to Dean and Robin making out. Dean says he’s not going anywhere. She’s skeptical but he says, “Who else would take you to the school dance?” Robin: “Is this your way of asking me to be your date, Dean Winchester?” Dean: “Yeah. How am I doing so far?”
Back with current Dean and Robin, he says he had reasons for leaving he can’t explain right now. He grabs her wrist to get her out of the house. The door shuts and Timmy says he’s sorry and he can’t stop it. Things start flying around at Robin and Dean and Dean tries to get her out of the line of paranormal fire.
Dean grabs an iron fireplace poker as Sam enters. He tries to get Sam to leave but it’s too late. Dean finds salt in the kitchen cabinet and tells Dean to make a circle. It’s just like the old days. It’s nice to go back to this kind of thing. Dean tells Robin to stay inside the circle.
Timmy, in the doorway, says he can’t control her and Sam puts it together that it’s his mom. Timmy explains the car accident and fire and how his mom saved him before the car exploded. She didn’t make it out. He says he hid in a building in the woods and cried for his mom, who showed up but was different. Timmy’s mom gave him the action figure and when Sam asks for it, mommy shows up. Dean temporarily stops her with the poker.
Dean grabs Bruce and torches the figure on the stove burner. Nothing happens. Sam says Timmy is anchoring mommy there. Dean swallows, unsettled.
Sam and Dean debate whether or not the mom will let go if Timmy’s alive. Robin makes a break for it and Dean catches up. She asks who Dean is and he replies, “Right now, the only thing keeping you safe.” Seriously. Now’s not the time for questions, honey. Mom attacks, squeezing Dean’s heart with her undead powers. She stops when she hears Sam ask for Timmy’s help.
Sam is explaining to Timmy that they’re not going to hurt him when Mom attacks. Mom gets her death hold on both Sam and Dean. Dean tells Timmy he needs to let her go. Dean: “Sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for you, even if it’s going to hurt the ones you love.”
Timmy tells Mom to stop hurting them. At first he’s too weak but Dean says, “Kung fu grip” and Timmy says it again, more assertively. Timmy tells her he’ll be okay and her creepy layers give way to her beautiful human form. She moves on. Timmy runs to Dean and hugs him.
Later, Dean says his goodbyes. Dean, to Robin: “As you can see, I did not run off to become a rock star.” Robin: “I don’t know about that. You look pretty rockin’ to me, Dean Winchester.” He smiles. She kisses Dean on the cheek. Dean waves to Timmy and Robin leads Timmy inside. Dean and Sonny say their goodbyes.
Sam says to Dean, “Here I was, thinking this was the worst part of your life and it turns out it was the best.” Sam asks why Dean left and Dean says it didn’t feel right and it wasn’t him.
Flash back to Dean putting on a tie for the school dance. Sonny tells Dean that John is outside, that he has a job and “he said you’d know what that means.” Dean is upset and Sonny offers to fight for him to not have to leave. The horn honks outside and Dean sees Sam hanging out the back window of the Impala. Dean thanks Sonny and tells him he has to go.
Back in the present, this happens.
Sam: “Thank you.”
Dean: For what?”
Sam: “For always being there. For having my back. Look, I know it always hasn’t been easy.”
Dean: “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
Dean starts the Impala and drives off.
I found this episode to be heartbreaking and a bit soul crushing. Before this, Sam was the one that got away from the family business when he went off to college. But now, Dean actually got away first, even if it didn’t start out to be by choice. He had stability for a few months and then seemingly everything after that has been a revolving door of death, demons and deals. Poor guy.
I’m not sure if this is a perfect fit as far as the timelines go. The revolving door of Deans is always weird to me and I wonder if they really couldn’t bring back the actor that played 17 year old Dean for this episode. The actor in this one did a perfectly fine job but I still wished we’d keep one for more than an episode, even if it’s years apart. If we can suspend our imaginations that no two younger Deans are alike, I think we can pretend a twenty year old is 16. We all did it with 80s movies. We can do it again.
I understand why but I still didn’t like the characterization of John Winchester in this episode. I hold a little torch in my heart for John and I’d rather the new info we get on him now be so disappointing. I still hope maybe one day, we’ll get Jeffrey Dean Morgan back for an episode. It’s not that crazy considering how much Jim Beaver we got after Bobby died.
So, what did you think? Do you think Dean wished he’d stayed there a bit longer? Did this change your opinion of John? Let me know your opinion on everything Supernatural in the comments!